Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Our French Life - Very un French

Our French Life - Very un French

Today I am blogging about something that would be totally alien to the French, I received an email from some good friends in England which contained pictures of their gardening ventures last weekend, you see they are very rural in England too and being very busy people they keep most of the garden in grass, well one corner of the garden has become a very large rabbit warren and the rabbits are allowed to live in harmony and roam free, you can see why I said very un French, here they would be shot for the pot.

But no our good friends The Turners have made it into their own little Rabbit Sanctuary, Watership Down if you like.

Well it is one thing to let them live there but these guys have gone a step further in making them their own little Stonehenge entrances, here's what I mean.

This is the very large tump

Now say what you like about this but giving rabbit's their own cave door I think is wonderful, it is nice to think that these little bunny's will live in peace without fear of the gun unless of course they stray out of the sanctuary.I believe they are going to plant shrubs on top to make it look better, I suggested that they open the garden to the   
   public as a conservation attraction,who knows it could be the start of something big.

Tell me what you think of this idea please, I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Our French Life - When!!

Our French Life - When!!

I was asked today when did my love of France first start, I had to think for a moment but then realised it was easy, 20 years or so ago there was a special offer in one of the National papers - Sail to France for £1 so we looked into it and I think in reality for a car and 4 passengers it was about £19 all told, so we suggested it to a couple of friends who were up for it and booked a long weekend.

I remember telling my Mother who was totally against all things French (no idea why) other than my family name was French, maybe there was some long ago dark secret that I have yet to find out about,who know's but this dislike of all things French had sort of rubbed off on me so my expectations were quite low.

We set sail on an overnight Ferry and found we had a cabin in the bowels of this massive boat which I did not like at all as it was just after the Zebrugge disaster so would have been 1988 ish and I never slept a wink all night, looking constantly to see if the water was coming under the door (I am still a bit like that now). it was a very long night.

We docked at Cherbourg and waited what seemed like ages to get off the boat, then when we did something magical happened, I was walking around in silence, something John was not used to, he asked was I alright several times and eventually I said "something happened to me when I stepped onto French soil - it feels like I have come home" this is where I feel I belong, John thought I had completely lost it but that feeling has never gone away and I knew from that day that France was supposed to be my home and that I had to make it so no matter what,they say your real roots tug at you like a magnet, maybe this is where my roots originated, needless to say my Mother was not amused but slowly I whittled away at the project that was -> how to get to France <- it wasn't until after she passed away that I really set to work on finding our home and by 2001 we had found it and bought it, spending every holiday possible here making it more and more comfortable, moving here full time in 2009, It is the best move we have ever made, it wasn't always plain sailing (Pardon the pun) and if you are thinking of doing the same there will be a lot of planning to get it right but if it is meant to be it will happen, never ever give up on your dream.

For all my Francophile readers out there:Please tell me when and why you fell in love with France and if you haven't already done so why not join this blog, it is just one step closer. :)

Monday, 8 April 2013

Our French Life - Printemps, où es-tu

Our French Life - Printemps, où es-tu

Today is the 8th April and it is officially Spring but it feels more like an autumn day, it was raining first thing here in St Aignan Sur Roe but now the sun shines in between the dark clouds that threaten to wet my washing, through the window all looks well as the sun shines but step outside and you instantly feel the chilly wind.

These pictures are showing our village in both directions from our front door, you can see that the sun is shining but the storm clouds are gathering as if someone somewhere has turned on the angry button.
The local farmers are struggling since all the rain last month, the fields are still very boggy and it is impossible to get a tractor onto them, one farmer has a JCB digging trenches and he seems to be laying pipes for drainage, a lot of them lost their corn crops last year due to it being to soggy. I really feel for them.

I bought a clematis a couple of weeks ago but it has been too cold to put it out so far, trouble is it is growing so quickly indoors I might have to chance it outside as we will be away from Friday for two weeks.

It was just up to the label when I bought it now it is at least a foot higher.
The birds are making a lot of noise outside - they live in next doors big hedge, the sparrow hawk thinks it is his own personal restaurant and sits on our washing line waiting for one to come out and I am sorry to say he has managed to get a couple of them, I haven't been quick enough to get a photo yet.
They are stealing all my ornamental grasses to build their nests so the cold weather won't stop reproduction.

Well we live in hope that there will be a Summer this year. c'est la vie

Let me know what the weather is like where you are please

Friday, 5 April 2013

Our French Life - Where have all the bees gone

Our French Life - The decline of the humble Bumble

I dream of the hazy lazy days of summer when the warmth of the sun on your face is combined with the buzzing of the bees going about their business in the garden, I plant flowers that I know the bees will like so as to attract them, I have no fear of them stinging me, they are not like their very distant cousins the dreaded wasp who is purely on this earth to annoy me and who dance around your face some say to communicate with you, they are the robbers and thieves who will blatantly rob a bees hive killing all the bees in the process.
There is a certain lack of bees at the moment, I would like to think it is because of the cold which I think has a definite bearing on it, I am pretty sure bees go to sleep for the winter and if it is cold they will think it is still winter as we all do sadly at the moment snow still rearing it's ugly head here in Northern France.

I can almost hear this one buzzing
Unfortunately the other reason for the lack of them and it is a chemical one, yes  a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. it is a pesticide that is used by farmers when planting crops especially corn.
The world needs to put pressure on the people who produce these pesticides otherwise the bees will vanish all together then we will be in great danger as we won't be able to get anything pollinated and we all know what happens then.
A very different picture

When seeds are treated with neonics, the pesticides get absorbed by the plant's vascular system and then "expressed" in the pollen and nectar, where they attack the nervous systems of insects.
Please if the powers that be are reading this do something now before it is too late.

Einstein was right when he said that if all the bees died in the world that exactly 4 years later all human will die too?

Everyone must act now and do their bit, we are all part of the same environment. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Our French life is very cold

Our French Life is very cold

We woke this morning to a small smattering of snow on top of a very hard frost on top of which is a very chilly wind, I scuttled into the kitchen to double check the calendar - was it really April? this time last year we had a lovely warm climate and I remember saying "this is probably Summer" it turned out to be one of the best months of the year.
Our neighbour said it is extremely unusual weather for the time of year, I know we are in Northern France but in the last 20 years I can't remember it being this cold, mind you most of those years were slightly rose tinted.
I was looking back through old gardening diaries and by this time last year I had got loads of stuff planted

This is a section of our garden this time last year.

Same section of garden same time this year

Definite lack of sunshine and even the grass looks drained this year.
I certainly am waiting eagerly to get out there and get the raised beds planted out.

They are looking so sad with last years dregs of cabbage and mache salade, I might pull them up and give them to the rabbits outside on the green.

We are purposely not planting indoor seeds as we will be going to England in a weeks time for 2 weeks so we might as well wait and plant straight outside, hoping of course that it will be warmer.

The forsythia and Red Robin bush add a lovely splash of welcome colour to the otherwise drab garden.

As earlier mentioned I try to keep a gardening diary and I have found it very handy to look back and see what I did and what did or did not work.

Maybe we should all do a sun dance :-)

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Our French life - Driving on French Roads

Our French life - Driving on French Roads

Driving on French Roads is indeed a pleasure, ( City areas excluded) you can drive for miles without seeing another vehicle especially on a weekend, that said, the French when encountered can be a bit crazy, I think they class their time on the road as empty time (not eating and drinking) a traffic jam here would be more than 4 cars.
Drinking and driving is the same here as in England so best not to is my motto

However plod can be around any corner so it is best to be prepared for them, here is what you will need:

  • Driving licence - Vehicle documentation - Insurance etc - Your passport should always be carried too.
  • Hazard warning triangle
  • High vis vest, this should be on the back of the seat not in the boot and the reasoning behind this is: if you are hit in the back and cannot open the boot you can't get it out to wear. you must put it on if you breakdown or are involved in an accident and place the warning triangle before your vehicle to warn oncoming traffic.
  • Breathalysers (2) which are available at most chemists and some supermarkets - I believe they have stopped the fine of 11€ - they also have a best by date so keep an eye on that.
  • Seat belts are to be worn at all times both front and back.
Speed limits are approx - inner areas 50 km Big roads 90 km, dual carriageways 110km  Motorways 130 km but when it is raining this is reduced to 110 km

Headlamps must be changed so that they dip the other way, get the men to sort the technical stuff I say.
Another hazard here is of course the wildlife such as deer or wild boar, we just missed a very large angry looking wild boar when returning from a shopping trip.

He shot out of the forest and was obviously on a mission straight in front of us, 2 seconds earlier and we would have hit him, whilst this clearly conjures up a vision of a lovely pig on a spit with crackling it also entails a very damaged car and unless you can prove the boar did the damage you are unlikely to get it covered by the insurance, well they can't claim it off the boar!, one tip a french man gave us was to keep a bit of the skin.

There are lots more that I won't bore you with but I know you will enjoy driving here in France and take in the beautiful views and always have a camera ready.

á bientot

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Our French Life - Lovely Weekend

Our French Life - Lovely Weekend.

It was so nice to actually have 4 days off for Easter although I will be fully retired in a couple of weeks time,( sorry for being so quiet ) 
Having worked all of my working life I guess I am going to find it extremely difficult to fill my days and will find it equally as easy to do nothing most of the time for a while, I think what is needed is a plan. 
Don't get me wrong, there is plenty here that needs doing even if it is in a supervisory position, poor John, the days are gone now when he could get on with a job in peace with the firm knowledge that I wouldn't be breathing down his neck to tell him he is doing it wrong, and I do want to get on with things and get all the stuff sorted that has been on the back burner until I retire - in fact it feels like now it will be a race to get it all done while we still can physically do it. one good thing that John did for me last year was to replace the veg garden with raised beds, by this time we would usually be dreading the big dig over of the veg patch which was hard work but now it takes minutes to rake over and de-weed the beds ready, I also have the vertical garden and want to make sure we have plenty of strawberries to be able to make some jam plus this year I am going to have a lot of container veggies, we have limited space so I am going to pack lots into small spaces and looking at the price of veg at the weekend (3€70 for 3 leeks) we are going to need it - the good thing is I will be able to spend as much time as I like in the garden without any interruptions, my time will be my own and I can get up whatever time I like although once the sun is up I am awake, maybe I can sit in the garden in Summer and read a book or learn some french, oh yes the French I must get myself out and about and mingle in with the locals, find out what is happening in our village as I am sure that is the only way to learn the language, or maybe I will volunteer my help somewhere.

Our local Restaurant has a sign outside which says Menu de Jour etc

Yesterday someone changed it as an April fools joke to say "En vanances pendant 6 mois"
We thought what has happened for them to be shutting for 6 months, everyone was stopping outside to read it and it became a great topic of conversation in the village, we live right opposite so could see all the activity, then I guess someone must have called them to make enquiries and then they realised what had happened and took the sign back in - today it stands outside with the correct writing on it. hopefully they didn't lose any trade because of it.